'Peake's Commentary on the Bible' is a renowned and reliable work. One of its 'Introductory Articles to the OT' is 'Canon and Text of the OT', written by B. J. Roberts. The writer observes that 'the text transmission of the LXX was far from strict':
From the very outset, and certainly from a very early time in the Christian era, the text transmission of the LXX was far from strict: indeed from the early 3rd cent. A.D. we have a comment by Origen, the first scholar, in our sense of the word, in the history of Christendom, thatthe MSS showed the greatest divergence, due both to scribal errors and, what is worse, to revision of the text and additions and omissions of 'whatever seems right' to the revisers [stress added]. (…), the Church in various areas adopted different recensions of the LXX, which further added to the chaos. After the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313 and the consequent acceptance of Christianity by Constantine as an empire religion, there was an attempt to secure for the OT, just as for the NT, a semi-standardisation of the text; but one need only look at the Greek Codices of the Greek Bible which were produced as a result of the Edict, to realise that there was very little consistency used in the production of such a text, and still less success in establishing the textual minutiae.
Jerome was commissioned by the then Pope to produce a Latin rendering of the whole of the Bible, who accomplished his work, Vulgate, in the late 4th and early 5th cent. BC. B. J. Roberts observes in the same article:
(…), he [Jerome] stressed that, in translating, 'if we follow the syllables we lose the understanding', and there are innumerable instances of departure from the Heb. Text to accommodate Christian dogma and interpretation.
The same writer says that there are numerous scribal errors and textual divergences from the LXX and other MSS (manuscripts):
(…), the Isa. A document, which contains the whole of Isa. apart from a few minor lacunae due to wear and tear of the MS. It was the first biblical MS of the scrolls to be published, and even now it is by far the best known. The average person who reads about the Dead Sea Scrolls―and his number is legion―is reassured by the authorities that the scroll agrees to a remarkable degree with the text of the standard Hebrew Bible, and there is no need to dispute this verdict, at least as far as the average reader is concerned. But textual criticism is a detailed study, and from this standpoint it is quite misleading to emphasize this very great measure of agreement. Apart from scribal errors which are numerous, the following divergences stand out: (a) the scroll, especially in the second half, presents a widely divergent orthography and grammar from that of the classical text; (b) there are numerous divergent readings, some of which correspond to known alternatives, e.g. in the LXX and in the Kere and Kethibh variants, whereas others were previously unknown; (c) in some instances the proper names agree not with the form they have in the common Isa. text but with that in later books, e.g. Chr. That is, the text in MS A might be regarded as a recension, approximating to the classical form, but by no means identical with it.
It is remarkable to note that one of the reasons of errors and misunderstandings in the biblical texts was the absence of any kind of vocalization system in the Hebrew script. It was only after the advent and under the influence of Islam that it was introduced in the Bible texts, as the writer asserts:
Some time in the 7th cent., probably under the indirect influence of Islam and of developments in the Syriac language, a rough and ready beginning was made to vocalise the consonantal text by the addition of vowel signs.
The text of the Bible was changed both (a) due to deliberate alterations by the scribes and (b) due to accidental/involuntary errors. As regards the first type, i.e. deliberate alterations the writer asserts:
Long before the text assumed its present form it was modified for reasons known to us and unknown. Glosses were added, explanatory, pious, habit (e.g. the adding of the words 'of the covenant' to 'ark' in many places), and others [sic.]. Unfortunately, some commentaries in the past have shown an undue enthusiasm for this class of textual corruption, and any phrase in the text which might contradict a preconceived theory was apt to be dismissed as a gloss: on the other hand it is generally recognized that, e.g. the book of Ezek. contains numerous instances of the glossator's work. Other early interferences were made by scribes who expunged the names of foreign deities and substituted for them the word bosheth ('shame'), e.g. Mephibosheth for Meribaal.
From the period which followed the fixing of the consonantal text we have Rabbinic evidence of textual criticism. Tikkune ha-Sopherim (emendations of the scribes), mentioned in Rabbinic commentaries, refer to attempts to avoid anthropomorphisms in the text by a change of suffix, in as many as eighteen passages. 'Itture ha-Sophcrim (omissions of the scribes) refer to grammatical points. Sopherin are marginal notes inserted in the Massoroth to indicate that the form is 'unexpected' and should probably be replaced by another word. Nekuddoth (puncta extra-ordinaria) are dots placed over words in ten passages in the Pentateuch which were queried by Massoretes on textual or exegetical grounds, and the fact that they are frequently mentioned in the Mishnah and other Rabbinic writings shows that they were commonly acknowledged. Again the retention of Kere and Kethubh variants shows Massoretic concern for textual criticism.
There are other places where scribes can be held responsible for textual corruption. There are innumerable instances where a vocalization is queried on the basis of an LXX reading, and it lies to hand to suggest that if any case is to be made for a 'recension' in the Massoretic text, it is in the interpretation given to it by the Massoretes responsible for the Tiberian vocalization. On the other hand, it is sometimes thought these late Massoretes confused the meaning of a passage because they had failed to understand it and consequently pointed it wrongly.
As regards the second type, ie involuntary scribal errors, the writer asserts:
The possibility of involuntary scribal errors is well demonstrated by the very carelessly written Qumran Scroll 1QIsa, and in a recent introduction to the study, The Text of the OT, by E. Wurthwein (Eng. Tr. P. R. Ackroyd, 1957), very good use is made of the MS to demonstrate the types and classes of error in the Heb. MT. The only caveat which might be entered is that 1QIsa is not a Massoretic MS nor does it belong to Judaism but rather to a sect, and perhaps it is not fair to the Massoretes to put them to this undeserved disrepute. A better source would be the fragments from the Cairo Geniza, where the same types of error occur, but the incidence is not nearly so common.
There have been useful manuals of textual corruption published―one in English by J. Kennedy (ed. by N. Levison), An aid to the Textual Amendment of the OT (1928). It discusses such errors as confusion of similar letters, in both the archaic and Aramaic scripts, e.g. Beth and Kaph, Daleth and Resh; inversion of letters; haplography (writing a letter once where it should be repeated, or omission of a word which is similar to the adjacent word); dittography (the reverse of the previous error); homoeoteleuton (where phrases and even passages have been omitted from between two similar words or even endings of words). How such omissions could have taken place in such official texts as the prototype of the present Biblia Hebraica and all the MSS supporting it defies explanation, because the Rabbis were strict in the matter of checking and correcting standard MSS, but it is a fact that they exist. For instance in I Sam. 14:41a lengthy passage has disappeared by homoeoteleuton with the word 'Israel', which occurs immediately before the beginning of the lost passage and which ends the passage.
Other assumed errors or sources of error are disputed among scholars. It is sometimes thought that abbreviations, particularly in the divine names, coupled with the wrong division of words constitute a possible error. That such abbreviations occur in the Geniza fragments is demonstrable, but it is still open to argue that they did not occur in more official MSS. Another debatable point is whether or not MSS were copied by dictation. This could have been a common source of corruption and would account for the numerous variations between similarly sounding gutturals; but, again, there is skepticism among scholars on the possibility.
The final note, however, in any discussion of textual errors must be one of caution. The prestige of the Massoretic scribal activity, increasingly recognised of recent years, makes the a priori likelihood of errors less than was previously believed. Increased study of Hebrew philology and semantics, and better acquaintance with cognate languages show that departure from the accepted text is frequently hazardous, and fresh information, particularly from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Cairo Geniza, makes the history of the text not only more interesting but enhances its standing as a text-form, the early standardisation of which made it unique among all textual transmissions.
Almost similar views have been expressed by the Dummelow's Commentary in its introductory articles in a different way:
For many centuries no vowel signs were used at all, and the consonants were written without any spaces between words. The scribes who copied were undoubtedly very careful, but sometimes the same consonant was written twice. Sometimes, of two consonants of the same form one was omitted; or a word might occur twice in one verse, and the scribe going on to the second as he copied the first would omit the intervening words. About the third century A.D. certain consonants began to be used to express unchangeably long vowels. This was called scriptio plena, i.e. full writing. About the middle of the sixth century when the Jews were much scattered, the danger arose that the proper pronunciation of Hebrew would be lost. A set of scribes called Masoretes, i.e. Traditionalists, introduced a complete system of points to indicate the vowels as traditionally pronounced.
Encyclopedia Americana has afforded 73 pages (p. 647-719) for Bible and its related themes under different topics by different writers. The topic of its 4th article is 'Textual Criticism of the OT' which is written by J. Philip Hyatt, Vanderbilt University. The author of the article has also pointed out similar forms of corruptions in the text of the Bible:
The purpose of textual criticism is to reconstruct the original text of the OT. It frequently is called lower criticism, to distinguish it from higher criticism, which deals with questions of authorship, date, source analysis, historical background, and the like.
This type of criticism is not peculiar to Biblical studies. It must be practiced on any piece of literature that we wish to study seriously and that has not come down to us in a copy made by the author's own hand. There is a textual criticism, for example, of the plays of Shakespeare. The peculiarities of OT textual criticism arise from the nature of the Hebrew language and the history of the OT text.
The OT is written in Hebrew, with the exception of the following passages, which are in the closely related Aramaic language: Ezra 4:8 to 6:18; 7:12-26; Daniel 2:4b to 7:28; and Jeremiah 10:11, and a few isolated words or expressions in Genesis. In ancient times these languages were written with consonants only, the pronunciation of vowels being preserved only by oral tradition [stress added]. In time some of the vowels were indicated by the use of certain consonant letters (called matres lectionis), and eventually all vowels were marked by these or by vowel points. Certain of the letters of Hebrew and Aramaic are similar, either in appearance or in sound. For example, in the square script that came into use about 200 B.C. the following pairs of letters are very similar in appearance and may easily be confused: D and R, B and K, H and CH, T and CH. Certain letters may be readily confused in sound; there are two K-sounds, three S-sounds, and two T-sounds. In ancient times the words often were not divided in manuscripts, and verses were not separated as they are now. These features of the original languages of the OT have helped to make errors possible in the transmission of its text.
The same writer, J. Philip Hyatt, traces the history of the text as follows:
The books of the OT were written between 1000 and 100 BC., and the canon was closed toward the end on the 1st Christian century. Not a single book has come down to the present in its original, autograph form [stress added]. The earliest manuscripts are those generally known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in the caves of Wadi Qumran and Wadi Murabbaat and elsewhere in the desert region of Palestine near the Dead Sea. Complete scrolls or fragments have been found of all books of the OT except Esther. Many are from the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. These manuscripts contain several difficult kinds of Hebrew text. Some are like the Greek Septuagint or the Samaritan Pentateuch, while others are very similar to the Masoretic text, which is discussed below.
(…). It is probable, therefore, that a 'proto- Masoretic' text was established by the year 100 A.D. This was the result of a process extending over two or three centuries, climaxed by needs that were felt in Judaism as the result of the rise of Christianity and the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. Rabbi Akiba may have been the leader in the final stage of this process.
For four centuries after Akiba the textual scholars were the Sopherim, the Scribes. While they were concerned mainly with the correct copying of the text, they were students of it as well. In various ways they sought to point out difficulties in the text: by the 'extraordinary points' placed above words in fifteen passages, which point out passages that are doubtful in one respect or another; by the eighteen 'emendation of the scribes' (tiqqune ha-sophrim), most of which attempt to avoid blasphemy against God; and by the Sebirin, which point out 'unexpected' forms. The Scribes made subdivisions in the text that eventually became chapters and verses.
It was not until the time of the Masoretes that a really standard text was established. The Masoretes were biblical scholars who lived in the period between the 6th and 10th centuries A.D. the word Masorete means 'one who hands down the tradition'. These scholars were not scientific critics of the text but men who sought to preserve the best traditions regarding the reading of the text. There were several Masoretic schools, both in Palestine and Babylonia. The Masoretes sought to fix a standard, authoritative text on the basis of the MSS available to them, and to provide the text with the notations that would be of aid in its study. One of the most important of their activity was to provide the text with complete vowel points. They also provided it with elaborate symbols to aid in the correct reading of the text, partly the equivalent of modern punctuation marks. They furnished in some cases indications of variant readings in two families of MSS (the so called kethib-Qere).
Under the sub heading 'Reconstruction of the Original Hebrew Text' the writer, J. Philip Hyatt, explains the types of corruption of the biblical text:
It should be obvious from this history of the text that a period of a thousand years or more elapsed between the completion of the latest book of the OT and most of the MSS on which modern study is based. During this time the text was repeatedly copied and recopied by hand. When one thinks of the errors that may arise even with the use of modern typewriters and composing machines, it is not difficult to realize why errors arose in this repeated copying by hand. Errors could arise from failure to read a text properly, failure to hear correctly when manuscripts were written from dictation, fatigue, failure to understand what one was writing, and even sheer carelessness. Sometimes material originally written in the margin was incorporated in the text.
It can be proved that errors have slipped into the text by comparison of parts of the Hebrew Bible that give the same material in two places: for example, II Samuel 22 and Psalm 18; or Psalm 14 and Psalm 53; or Isaiah 36 to 39 and II Kings 18:13 to 20:19. More extensive comparison may be made of the material in I-II Chronicles that has been adapted from I-II Samuel and I-II Kings. Small or large differences suggest that one form or the other [or none of them] may be original.
Errors also are obvious to the modern scholar in passages that do not make sense, even when read by one who has a thorough knowledge of Hebrew. The purpose of textual criticism, therefore, is to remove as many errors as possible from the present text and thereby to recover the original text.
A comparison of the available Hebrew MSS helps only a little in recovery of the original text of the OT. Careful studies have shown that the Masoretic MSS that have come down to us contain few significant variants. Those that occur are largely differences in orthography or vocalization (and possibly dialects) and seldom give differences in meaning. The task of the OT textual critic is therefore different from that of the NT textual critic, who must rely largely upon careful comparison of early Greek MSS.
The complete Isaiah scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls (known as IQIsa) is one of the earliest and best known pre-Masoretic MSS. While it very often agrees with the Masoretic text, it offers in a few places readings that appear to be superior to the readings of that text. For example, the Masoretic text of Isaiah 3:24 may be translated as follows:
Instead of sweet spices there will be rottenness,
And instead of a girdle, a rope;
Instead of well-set hair, baldness,
And instead of a robe, a girdling of sack-cloth;
Branding instead of beauty.
The last line of this verse presents two difficulties: it reverses the order of the words in the four preceding lines, and it assumes a meaning for the common Hebrew word ki, here translated 'branding', that it has nowhere else in the Bible. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah contains an additional word to the last line, which makes it possible to render it as follows:
For instead of beauty (there will be) shame.
In a few instances the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah supports the reading of the Septuagint or another ancient version. (Consult the marginal notes to Isaiah in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, where these readings often are cited.)
The writer observes that the original text of the OT was altered in very ancient times, before the earliest known MSS and versions:
In a small number of cases the original text of the OT was altered in very ancient times, before the earliest known MSS and versions, for example, in II Samuel the word Baal (the name of a non-Hebrew deity) in personal names has been replaced by the word bosheth, which means 'shame'. In Chronicles, however, the original forms have been retained. For example, the name of Saul's son is given as ish-bosheth in II Samuel 2:8, but as Esh Baal in I Chronicles 8:33. It is certain that his original name was not one that meant 'man of shame', but rather 'man of Baal'.
The writer asserts that sometimes the textual critic must resort to emendation of the received Heb. text; but his purpose should be to recover the actual text rather than to improve what was written by the ancient author:
Recovery of the original text often requires more than comparison of ancient Hebrew MSS and comparison of parts of the OT. The textual critic sometimes must resort to emendation of the received Hebrew text. The purpose of an emendation never should be to 'improve' what was written by an ancient author but simply to recover what he actually wrote. OT scholars in the latter part of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th very often emended the Hebrew text and frequently seemed to have little respect for the Masoretic text [stress added]. Scholars now have greater respect for that text and resort to emendation only as a last resort. This heightened respect has come in part from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in part from increased knowledge of the history of the text and the recovery of the relatively early MSS, and in part from careful study of the Semitic languages that are cognate with Hebrew.
Thus the primary concern of the scholar should be to understand and interpret the Masoretic text; if he cannot do that, he may resort to emendation.
The writer has classified the task of emendation in the following three categories:
Emendations of the Hebrew text may be classified as follows:
1. Those that rest on the evidence of an ancient version, such as the Septuagint;
2. Those that are based on conjecture without versional support; and
3. Emendations that involve both conjecture and occasional evidence.
As regards the emendations based on the evidence of an ancient version, such as the Septuagint, the writer writes:
Several of the ancient versions of the OT were produced before the time of the Masoretes. The most important are the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Targums, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. These versions sometimes differ in detail from the Hebrew Bible. It is possible, therefore, that in some instances they represent the original text and the Masoretic text does not.
It is frequently very difficult to decide whether one of these versions or the Masoretic text represents the original reading. It is rash to assume that in every case of difference the Septuagint or another version is more original only because it is older than our Masoretic MSS. The scholar must very carefully consider every individual case of variation. For example, in comparing the Septuagint with the Hebrew text, the scholar must exercise great care. He must realize that the various translators of the Septuagint differed in their competence and in care they took in their work. Sometimes they paraphrased rather than translated literally; sometimes they misunderstood a verse or passage. Corruptions have taken place in the MSS of the Septuagint itself, as in the Hebrew text. Nevertheless, even when these and other possibilities have been considered, the Septuagint and other ancient versions sometimes do give sound aid in restoring the original Hebrew. The writer has afforded here 'an example' that 'will illustrate their use in textual emendation'. He explains:
In I Samuel 14:41 a long clause obviously has dropped out of the Masoretic text but has been preserved in the Septuagint and the Vulgate. In the following translation, the words in italics are omitted in the Hebrew:
And Saul said to the Lord, God of Israel, 'Why hast thou not answered thy servant today? If the guilt be in me or Jonathan my son, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim; but if the guilt be in thy people Israel give Thummim'. Jonathan and Saul were taken, and the people escaped.
It is clear that this longer form of the verse is necessary to the sense, and it is easy to see why the Hebrew scribe made the omission. His eye skipped from the word 'Israel' near the beginning of the verse to the same word near the end, and he unconsciously omitted all the intervening words. This type of error is known as homoioteleuton. The same error sometimes is made by typists today[stress added].
Another kind of error may be illustrated from Psalm 49:11. The first half of the verse in Hebrew may be translated literally: 'Their inwardness (qirbam) is their home for ever, their dwelling places to all generations'. This is nonsense, which is not adequately relieved by the King James Version: 'Their inward thought is, that their house shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations', the words in italics not being in the Hebrew at all but inserted in order to attempt to make sense of the verse. Yet, when one turns to the Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targum, one finds that the verse should be read: 'their graves (qibram)' are their homes forever, their dwellingplaces to all generations." The scribal error was simply that of transposing B and R, so that what was originally written as qibram eventually became qirbam.
A few suggested emendations of the Masoretic text have been confirmed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah. For example, the Masoretic text of Isaiah 49:24, 25 reads as follows:
Can prey be seized from the mighty,
or the captives of a righteous man be rescued?
For thus says the Lord"
Even the captives of the mighty shall be seized,
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued;
For I will contend with those who contend with you,
and your children I will save.
In the second line the italicized term seems strangely out of place. It breeds the poetic parallelism, and one expects on the basis of the reading of the fifth line a word such as 'tyrant'. That is just the word that is presupposed by the Septuagint, Peshitta, and the Vulgate, and the Hebrew word for 'tyrant' occurs in the Dead Sea Scroll. The error probably arose from the fact that in the Hebrew square script the word caris ('tyrant') and saddiq ('righteous man') are very similar in appearance.
As regards the emendations that are based wholly on conjecture the writer of the article explains:
Emendations that are based wholly on conjecture must be the last resort of the textual critic, yet they are sometimes necessary and sound. They may be suggested out of a knowledge of the types of errors that scribes can make, the forms of the Hebrew letters, and common sense as to the meaning of a passage. One very simple emendation that has commended itself to most modern scholars may be found in Amos 6:12. The first half of the verse reads in Hebrew: 'Do horses run on the rock? Does one plow with oxen?' the first rhetorical question implies the answer 'no', but the second implies 'yes'. One naturally expects in the light of the context that both questions imply the same answer. The King James Version attempts to resolve difficulty by translating, 'Will one plow there with oxen', but 'there' is not in the Hebrew. A simple solution gives a suitable rendering. The Hebrew word babeqarim, 'with oxen' can be divided into two Hebrew words, bebaqar yam, 'with oxen the sea'. We thus translate the emended text: 'does one plow the sea with oxen?' the difficulty arose from the fact that in ancient times manuscripts did not always separate words, or in some cases words were wrongly separated.
As regards the emendations that are exercised partly on the basis of ancient versions and partly by conjecture, the writer elucidates as follows:
Sometimes the text may be emended partly on the basis of ancient versions and partly by conjecture. A good example is Proverbs 25:27. Translated literally, the Hebrew seems to say: 'It is not good for one to eat much honey; and searching out their glory is glory'. The meaning of this is far from apparent. One may attempt to restore the original text by comparing the Septuagint and Targum and adopting their reading at the end of the verse, and then conjecturing that the first word (in Hebrew) of the second half of the verse is the same as the first word in the Proverbs 25:17. One then gets the proverbial saying: 'It is not good for one to eat much honey; so be sparing of complimentary words'.
However, it is heartening to note that the learned writer has, ultimately, acknowledged the worth and credibility of the biblical literature to some extent. He has observed:
Textual criticism has made great progress in the attempt to restore the original text of the OT. Much remains to be done, but on the whole the original text of the OT is as well known as that of any other book that has survived from antiquity and probably better known than most.
The Dummelow's Commentary asserts that the Mosaic authorship regarding the Pentateuch is not genuine:
The traditional view was that Moses was the author of the five books which bear his name in our Bibles; and until comparatively recent times this belief was accepted without question or inquiry regarding its grounds. A thorough study of these books, however, has led many to the conclusion that this view of their authorship does not fit in with the facts, and that another view is necessitated by the evidence which the books themselves present [stress added].
The Dummelow's Commentary expresses the view that the Pentateuch was anonymously written and it is not fair to ascribe it to Moses in its present form:
It must also be noted that as a whole the five books are anonymously written, and that there is no passage in the OT which claims Moses as their author. The 'Law of Moses' indeed is frequently spoken of, and it is unquestionable that Israelite law did originate with him; but this expression is not evidence that Moses was the writer of the Pentateuch as we have it, or that the laws which it contains represent throughout his unmodified legislation. (….).
On close examination, however, it must be admitted that the Pentateuch reveals many features inconsistent with the traditional view that in its present form it is the work of Moses. For instance it may be safely granted that Moses did not write the account of his own death in Dt 34. (…). In Gn 14:14 and Dt 34 mention is made of Dan; but the territory did not receive that name till it was conquered by the Danites, long after the death of Moses (Josh 19:47 Jg 18:29). (….).
A careful examination has led many scholars to the conviction that the writings of Moses formed only the rough material or part of the material, and that in its present form it is not the work of one man, but a compilation made from previously existing documents [stress added]. In this connexion it must be remembered that editing and compiling is a recognised mode of authorship in OT history. Just as St. Luke tells us (Lk 1:1) that before our Four Gospels were written, there were many earlier accounts of our Lord's life already in existence, so the OT writers tell us of similar accounts already written of the facts which they record. And not only so, but they distinctly indicate that they used these earlier accounts in composing their own books. It is most interesting to find embedded in the existing books fragments of the old literature of ancient Israel, as geologists find the fragments of the lost animal life of early ages embedded in the rocks of to-day. See, for example, 'the book of the Wars of Jehovah' (Nu 21:14), 'the book of Jesher' (2S 1:18) 'the book of Gad and Nathan' (1Ch 29:29), 'the book of Shemaiah and Iddo' (2Ch 12:15). Here we have evidence of the existence of sources of information to which editors and compilers of later days had access. We find also several ancient poems incorporated in the sacred text, eg. Gn 4:23f, Ex 15, 17:16, Nu 21:17,18,27f, Jg 5, etc., and it is probable there were other early writings available besides those which can now be traced. There is thus nothing strange in the suggestion that the books of the Pentateuch were based on preexisting materials [stress added].
Hereunder the Dummelow's Commentary affords the main grounds of the conviction that the Pentateuch is not the original work of one man, but a compilation of the previously existing documents:
Composition: The following are the main grounds of the conviction that the Pentateuch is not the original work of one man, but a compilation of the previously existing documents:
(1) In the historical parts we find duplicate accounts of same event, which do not always agree in detail [stress added]. Sometimes the two accounts are set down side by side; sometimes they are fused together more or less completely; but in many instances no attempt has been made either to remove or to reconcile their differences. Thus two distinct and independent accounts of the Creation are given, one in Gn 1-2:4, the other in Gn 2:4-25. Two accounts of the flood may be detected on a careful reading of Gn 6-9. Again we find two sets of instructions for the observance of the Passover in Ex 12, one in vv. 1-13, the other in vv. 21-27. We may also instance the contrasts between such passages as Gn 27:1-45 and 27:46-28:9, where Rebekah is actuated by one motive in the former and by quite another in the latter; Gn 28:19 and 35:9-15, where the name is given to Bethel in very different circumstances; Gn 35:10 and 32:28. Compare also Ex 3:1-6:1 with 6:2-7:13, where the latter section takes no account of the former, but begins the story of the mission to Pharaoh anew, as if 3:1-6:1 had never been written.
(2) Similarly in the legislative portions of these books we find apparent contradictions, and these not in minor or insignificant details, but in fundamental enactments [stress added]; and the only way in which we can solve the problem thus presented is by understanding that in these books (especially Exodus to Deuteronomy) we have the records of laws laid down at various periods of the national history, and dealing with radically different conditions of life. In Ex 20-23, e.g., we have a set of laws which are evidently suited to the circumstances of an agricultural and pastoral community scattered over a considerable tract of country with their flocks and herds. This legislation is of a very simple and practical nature, based on the fundamental principles of truth and righteousness, and having reference to a primitive state of society. (….).
In the book of Deuteronomy we find a more advanced type of legislation, applying evidently to different circumstances. Many injunctions, indeed, are repeated, but many others are changed. The principles are the same as in the older legislation, but the rules are largely modified. (….).
Again, in the book of Leviticus, with parts of Exodus and Numbers, we find another type of legislation, founded still on the same Mosaic principles, but more elaborate, more priestly, more rigid than that of Ex 20-23 or that of Deuteronomy. (…).
(3) Different parts of the Pentateuch exhibit marked differences of vocabulary and literary style. Many of these differences, especially of vocabulary, can only be appreciated by those acquainted with Hebrew; but any one can see that the book of Deuteronomy is written in a much more rhetorical style than, say, the book of Leviticus, and can appreciate its lofty and inspiring eloquence. Again, in one set of passages, of which Gn 1-2:4 is a type, the Almighty is called God (Hebrew Elohim), while in another set, of which Gn 2:4-26 is an example, He is designated Lord (Hebrew Jehovah); and there are many other points of difference which are most satisfactorily explained by the theory that the writer of the Pentateuch, as we have it, made use of and incorporated into his work documents originally separated.
Following up the clue given by these differences, scholars have endeavoured to disentangle the separate documents from which it is suggested that the Pentateuch was compiled, and we shall now give a brief outline of the results of their investigations.
The writer has also tried to trace the various sources of the material contained in the books of the Pentateuch:
(a) There is first what we may call the Primitive source (itself resting upon older written authorities), usually denoted by the symbol JE. (…). It begins at Gn 2:4, and may be said to supply all the more detailed and picturesque narratives in Genesis, and Exodus, part of Numbers, and the first twelve chapters of Joshua. (…). It makes use of the term 'Jehovah' for God from the very outset of its narrative. Plausible attempts have been made to analyze it into two components, J and E; but for these reference must be made to larger works. (….).
It seems probable that the older written authorities underlying this Primitive or Prophetic narrative were drawn up not later than 750 B.C., and perhaps even a century earlier; (…).
(b) There is, secondly, the Priestly document (usually designated P). This work so called because it regards the history of Israel from the Priestly point of view, (…).
This Priestly document avoids all anthropomorphic representations of God, and in this respect is in striking contrast to the Primitive writing JE, which represents God as thinking and acting like a man: (…). A feature of its references to God is that it makes use of the name Elohim (God) for God almost exclusively (…). The writer of this document evidently belonged to the priestly class; his aim was entirely a religious one; (…). The Priestly thus exhibits signs of the discipline and purification which the nation experienced in the exile and is appropriately dated at the close of that event.
(c) The third document underlying the Pentateuch is the book of Deuteronomy, usually cited as D, and identified in its main parts with the Law-book discovered in the Temple by Hilkiah in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, 621 B.C. (…).
It is supposed that these three documents―the Primitive writing, the Priestly writing, and the the book of Deuteronomy―were welded together somewhat in this way. The first attempts to write a history of Israel probably originated in the schools of the prophets in the ninth century B.C.: and in the Primitive writing JE we have the finished result. About the same time as JE was composed, the Second Legislation (D) was set down in writing and made public as recorded in 2K 22. This was afterwards combined with the earlier writing, which gave it a historical background. Then during, or immediately after the exile, the ritual law was drawn up in accordance with the priestly traditions, and given an appropriate setting in a historical framework, the result being the Priestly writing (P). Finally a later historian, taking these as his authorities, wove them together into a complete whole, connecting them by notes and explanations, where these were necessary; not putting the history in his own words or presenting it from his own standpoint as a modern historian would do, but piecing together the sections of the sources which referred to the same events, and thus preserving not only the history, but the very words in which it had reached him, for all coming generations. In this writer's work we have the Pentateuch of the OT Scriptures.
Geddes MacGregor has afforded, inter alia, another type of corruption in his esteemed book 'The Bible in the Making'. It would be pertinent to give an excerpt from it as well:
(…). For all the care that scribes often devoted to their task, a great many errors inevitably crept in. Deviations occur even among the most reliable of the ancient Greek manuscripts.
Before the invention of printing, the difficulty of reproducing the Bible did not consist solely in the labour of copying by hand. Parchment was scarce, so that contractions were very freely used. Sometimes a valuable manuscript, such as the Codex Ephraemi, a fifth-century Bible now in the Bibliotheqe Nationale, Paris, was treated so that, the writings have been erased by scraping and pumicing, the pages might be used over again for making another book. The lower writing was not usually quite obliterated, however, though it was extremely difficult to decipher it until chemical means were found to revive what had been rubbed out. Such a book, with one set of writing superimposed upon another, is called a palimpsest [stress added]. Again, MSS were often corrected by later copyist who scraped out with a knife what seemed to them incorrect, and modern scholars know that in many cases it was the corrector, not the MS, that was at fault. Sometimes a note would be made in the margin which a subsequent copyist would take to be part of the text. The hazards of inaccuracy in copying out the Bible by hand in the circumstances that prevailed in those days were so great that it is indeed astonishing that a text has been preserved which, despite technical problems it presents to the learned, may be taken as generally not straying very far from the sense of the original.
Point-wise recapitulation summaries have been afforded for some of the early parts of this article. They cover almost all of the important points. Thereafter, it was not deemed necessary. It was also not considered proper to quote more authorities. All the important themes have been elucidated. Moreover, almost all of the real and unbiased authorities unanimously endorse these themes. It can safely be concluded on the basis of the above evidence that the text of the OT of the Bible, verbatim et literatim, cannot be taken as free from corruption and alteration. However, the real message can be collected from it, using the critical and analytical apparatus. It may be noted that these types of corruption crept into the text of the Bible in spite of all the humanly possible care that had been sincerely afforded by the early scholars of the Bible. Geddes MacGregor has noted some measures taken towards the faultless transmission of the Bible texts. He notes:
(…). With the fall of the Temple at Jerusalem in that year [A.D. 70], the ritual worship with its animal sacrifices was at end, and the dispersed Jews had nothing to take with them on their wanderings but their Bibles. To the copying out of these they devoted immense care. The regulations for making a copy of the Scriptures are set forth in the Talmud (the great post-Biblical collection of Jewish law and legend) and show how scrupulously careful the scribes had to be. The scroll of the Law for use in a synagogue had to be fastened, for instance, with strings made from the skin of 'clean' animals. The length of each column was prescribed: not more than sixty nor fewer than forty-eight lines were permitted. Lines had to be drawn before the writing was done, and if a scribe inadvertently wrote more than three words without first lining his copy, the whole thing was rendered worthless. He had to see that the space of a thread lay between each two consecutive letters that he wrote, and he was not allowed to write even a single letter from memory, without first looking at the approved text from which he was making the copy. He had to see that he never began the sacred name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, lest he spatter this. The ink had to be black, made exactly according to a carefully delineated prescription. Throughout the whole of his work, the scribe was required to sit in full Jewish dress, and he was forbidden to speak to anyone, even a king. Any copies that did not entirely conform to the exacting standard had to be destroyed. What chiefly accounts for the absence of early Hebrew MSS, however, is the fact that as soon as any scroll became worn out it had to be put in a special room called Geniza, adjoining the synagogue, the contents of which room were periodically cleared out and destroyed. The Jews had no interest in preserving tattered old copies of the Scriptures for the sake of their antiquity: what they wanted were accurate copies, and so long as accuracy of current copies was ensured by the rigid regulations, old ones could be discarded.
It can thus be safely concluded that the text of the OT had to suffer many a type of setback due to a number of reasons as detailed above. As such all possible analytical and critical measures should be adopted to ascertain the validity and intent of its text. But, at the same time, withal its shortcomings, it has preserved a lot of theological, historical, and prophetic substance in it and is not to be discarded outright.